Page last updated at 09:26 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 10:26 UK

Mixed reaction to Best drama

Tom Payne
Tom Payne starred as George Best in the BBC Two film 'Best: His Mother's son'

While George Best's sister has criticised the BBC drama about the football legend and his mother's alcoholism there has been a mixed reaction in the UK press.

Best: His Mother's Son was shown on BBC Two on Sunday.

Sam Wollaston in the Guardian didn't like the performance of Tom Payne as George and also thought references to the Troubles were not needed.

"Quibbles aside though, this was terrific original drama by Terry Cafolla, a powerful and moving portrait of fame and alcoholism, and what it does to a family," he wrote.

He agreed with most other reviewers and indeed George's sister Barbara McNarry that Michelle Fairley was very impressive as Ann Best, saying she "played a blinder".

The Times' Andrew Billen was less enthusiastic, writing: "As tragic flaws go, alcoholism is hardly Shakespearian, since it is nearer an obliteration of personality than a facet of it.

"Once you have said 'George and his mum drank too much', you have almost said it all."

The recreation of late-sixties Belfast was accurate and, thank goodness, intelligently subdued: no comedy Ulster accents and no point-scoring subplot about the Troubles
Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph

However, he felt the film was redeemed by director Colin Barr and his cast, particularly Michelle Fairley and Lorcan Cranitch as George's mother and father.

Perhaps the most scathing assessment of the drama is by the Belfast Telegraph's Lindy McDowell.

"The big question about this film is should it ever have been made in the first place?" she asked.

She is highly critical of the portrayal of Ann and Dickie Best, who she said were a "devoted couple" who ran a "happy household".

Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph described the film as "a gloomy drama".

"The recreation of late-sixties Belfast was accurate and, thank goodness, intelligently subdued: no comedy Ulster accents and no point-scoring subplot about the Troubles," he said.

Michelle Fairley
Several reviewers praised Michelle Fairley as George Best's mum, Ann

"The script didn't make the mistake of being too clever: Ann Best was an ordinary woman who reacted badly but predictably to the disorientation of vicarious celebrity."

In the Independent , Tom Sutcliffe gave the film a lukewarm review.

"It somehow seemed smaller than the tale it was telling, partly because it consciously offered the back-story to a larger and better-known melodrama, but also because it never seemed entirely sure what to do with the material it had," he said.

Like other reviewers, he praised the performance of Michelle Fairley as Ann Best, but felt "she really didn't have a lot to work with other than the melancholy clichés of the alcoholic downward spiral".

Perhaps the most sarcastic review of the drama was by Matt Baylis in the Express who said it "offered the uplifting sight of two people slowly ruining themselves with drink, set against the charming backdrop of Belfast during the Troubles.

"You would have been better off with Heartbeat."


The Best family declined to co-operate in the making of the programme.

George's sister Barbara McNarry said the film's portrayal of alcoholism showed a "simplistic and limited understanding of this complex disease".

"I'm personally deeply hurt by the one-dimensional, inaccurate portrayal of my mother, who was a truly gentle, ladylike person, before alcohol took over her life," she said.

Mrs McNarry said that "despite the personal hurt" caused by the programme, she hoped it would raise awareness of alcoholism.

A BBC spokesperson said the script was based on factual material "already firmly in the public domain".

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